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Our Views: Picking winners
Voters should sift through the clutter, find the substance and choose wisely in Tuesday's primary
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This is the time, two days before a primary, when you used to see your local newspaper begin to offer endorsements in the various races on the ballot. This was the product of a time when newspapers were the only common voice of a community to shape the public debate.

But today, every candidate has a website, a Facebook page, e-mail alerts, flyers, yard signs and broadcast commercials to reach out and touch voters with their plans and qualifications. Meanwhile, newspapers are dedicating more resources than ever to give readers the information they need.

Many newspapers, including The Times, now forgo the practice of endorsing candidates. Our belief is that your daily newspaper should give you the information you need about the campaigns, then let you decide for yourself how to vote. Our efforts can be better spent covering the races and candidates, and their time better spent talking directly to voters instead of to us.

What we have sought to do is provide as much information as possible about the candidates and issues in every key race to help you make informed choices. This effort led to the formation of the Georgia Newspaper Partnership, in which The Times and 12 other papers share stories and photos statewide to give Georgians access to more information.

Yet while we don't provide candidate endorsements, we do have some recommendations we'd like you to consider before you head to the polls.

As we've mentioned before, the best voters are informed voters. Learn all you can about the candidates from as many sources as possible. Campaign websites and advertising offer a carefully crafted view of the candidate's strengths designed to lure you in, but they can offer useful information on their policy plans. Broadcast and print coverage are going to give you a more objective view, so rely on them as well.

It is important to know that the source of your information is reliable. That is something newspapers work hard to provide, in print and online.

What we hope you won't do is pick candidates for superficial reasons: What they look like, where they're from, if they have a funny name, whose yard sign looks best, what church they go to or how many kids and dogs they have. Take all that for what it's worth. Being a good parent or a church deacon doesn't make you capable of running a government. Yes, we need to elect decent people, but they also need to know how to do the job.

Tossing out the superfluous also means separating candidates who focus on matters that most voters don't care about. We have seen this in several statewide races, with candidates firing back and forth over issues that don't register that highly with voters and sometimes have nothing to do with the job they are seeking.

The GNP/Mason-Dixon poll published this week showed that two-thirds of voters statewide are concerned most about the economy, jobs and state budget. These are the topics candidates should focus on and that most voters will respond to. Random attacks on trivial matters distract us from the real concerns that will affect our state's future.

Candidates spend a lot of money and effort to get you to like them personally, believing that if they "think like you," you'll vote for them. They want to be that good neighbor you'd have a beer or a cup of tea with, believing that is the key to earning your trust.

It shouldn't be. A political campaign is, in fact, a job interview and we are the bosses. We aren't considering these people to be our "BFFs." It should be about picking the best people to lead our governments, not whom to hang out with. Take the detached approach and reward competence, not those who tell you everything you want to hear.

Candidates raise millions of dollars to run for office, much of that spent on ads and media that blur their flaws and highlight their strengths. But remember, these are human beings, not robots. They don't have to be perfect in every way, any more than the person we hire to fix our roof or plumbing. More importantly, we want them to know what they're doing and have a clear idea of what their goals are once in office. Focus on the substance, not the fluff.

And keep in mind that the real test of a leader, particularly a governor, is how they respond in a crisis. We've seen other governors handle man-made and natural disasters in their states, some quite ably, others less so. Picture how the person you vote for will take charge in an emergency and whether they have the qualities our state will need in those situations.

So that's our endorsement. We aren't picking candidates or parties. What our state needs most are elected officials who are civic-minded, hard-working people who will keep our nation, state and local governments running efficiently, whatever their political leanings may be.

We want leaders who will handle our tax dollars with respect and discretion and provide key services we expect, no more, no less. We want them to set high moral and ethical standards and spend their time in office serving the people, not lining their own pockets. We want them to respond decisively and effectively in a crisis and represent our state admirably to the nation and the world.

Who among the dozens of names on the ballot will fill that ideal? That's for each of us to decide on our own. We hope you will choose wisely.

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